Tyler Shields | FINAL GIRL

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Tyler Shields is an American photographer whose occasionally controversial, yet unavoidably original, style has brought a certain notoriety. Final Girl is his directorial debut.

STARBURST: Final Girl feels very different, but what would you say distinguishes it from other similarly themed films?

Tyler Shields: I think that’s absolutely right. A lot of the films you see coming out now are very CGI-driven and they look the same, and they sound the same, and they have the same tone. This is the complete opposite of that; Final Girl is an homage to early cinema and contemporary Americana.

Abigail Breslin is key in her role as Veronica. What was about her that you thought made her perfect for the part?

When I met her she was only 16 years old and is so innocent looking and sweet. Not now, obviously, as I’ve seen her beat up grown men! She used to be really nice so maybe I corrupted her. You would never expect this from her and that’s why she was perfect.

Veronica’s relationship with Wes Bentley’s William is very ambiguous for much of the film. Did you come with a backstory or flesh their relationship out in the script at all?

I have my own backstory for the film. There are a lot of things people complain about in movies these days, such as not having strong female-driven films. Well, we did that. Another thing is that films try and explain everything and never let the audience make up their own mind. We wanted people to do that with William. There were times when the producers wanted us to reveal more of his story but we wanted the audience to have those questions at the end, ones that they would need to figure out themselves.

The film feels very raw, not in a “debut movie” way but in a “let’s just get to the point” way. Was that something you consciously worked towards?

One hundred percent. Why did we need to have all that explanation when you should be on a journey with the film, working things out as you go? Hopefully that works.

Have you found then that different people have taken different things from the film?

If you try to tell people how they’re supposed to think or feel about art, or anything really, then you’re going to lose them. Some people have thought one thing and others have thought something else, which is fascinating for me.

Any internet search of you brings up a certain amount of controversy…

What? Me? I don’t have any controversy [laughs]!

Well you do seem to like pushing buttons and stretching boundaries, but we wondered if you found that it was difficult to find an independent voice in filmmaking?

I think that there’s an interesting thing happening with movies, and that is there are a lot of people unwilling to take risks. It’s all about the bottom dollar. They all think they don’t want to do something different because it might not work. In the past this has caused the film industry to collapse. You had Paramount, who were about to close their doors but then they took a chance on what was considered an experimental film called The Godfather. That worked out. This is an industry built around taking risks and creating worlds. It’s too easy to get caught up in what might or might not make money.

Do you feel then that you would rather just have people talk about your film then regardless of whether they like it or not or how successful it is?

You brought up the photography and the controversy, and what I’ve found is that I’ve been very fortunate for some of my work to make big news. That doesn’t happen very often. But that also means there have been people who absolutely hate the photographs and some that absolutely love them. Those polarising news stories create a dynamic. Extreme hate and extreme love are often very similar in that you’re ultimately getting that extreme reaction.

Final Girl is extremely stylish and stunning to look at. Did you feel that the aesthetic could overpower the story?

I personally don’t think that’s the case. The first time some people watch the film they might be taken aback a little. A friend of mine said that the first time he watched it he had no idea what was going on and just noticed the visuals. When he watched it again he understood the story more. It goes back to what we were saying before; I remember when we were filming in the woods and it was pouring with rain and a producer asked me if we needed so much light as nothing looked realistic. I’d been out there for about ten hours at that point, and was a little stern so I just said “It’s a movie, it’s a fantasy…get over it!”

What will we see next from you?

There is something I’m writing now, I’m about halfway through, which is the best thing I’ve ever written and it’s the most unique idea I’ve ever had but I don’t know when it might happen. There’s The Wild Ones which I wrote that’s on the Blacklist, so I may do that first, but I’ve learned so much with Final Girl that I can’t wait to get going on the next one.

Final Girl is released on DVD on September 7th.


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